After three hours of screaming early 2000s melancholy tunes to a stand-up microphone surrounded by inflatable skeletons, laser lights and fog machines to the jam-packed crowd at Vivid Music Hall, Jade Meadows slips on a pair of designated post-show slippers for the night.
“Usually, the day after, I'm pretty immobile,” Meadows, 28, said. “It's very much a release for me.”
Meadows works as a freelance digital specialist and is a photography drone pilot on the side — but they’re also the current host of Gainesville’s Pop Punk and Emo Nite. Heavily eyelined regulars who frequent the event might recognize Meadows more easily by their stage name, “SaddyDaddy.”
Gainesville’s Pop Punk and Emo Nite, a monthly event hosted at various venues like The Wooly and the new Vivid Music Hall, has now become a hallmark of Gainesville’s nightlife scene.
The angsty night originally began on a random Tuesday in 2017, while co-founders Vijaya “VJ” Seixas, Sean O’Brien and Jimbo Rountree were working at the time at the now-defunct Atlantic Nightspot. The pair got into the habit of building a Spotify queue for cleaning up after closing.
“Me and the rest of the staff started screaming at the top of our lungs,” O’Brien, 38, said. “It just started picking up from there. It filled the gap… these people have nowhere to listen to this type of music.”
When a line eventually started forming outside of the once-intimate group hangout, O’Brien became the first unofficial host of Emo Nite.
The pair were inspired by a similarly gothic-themed party in Los Angeles in 2015, Seixas said. Once he decided to begin contacting his sources in the area, the initial casual hangout session was amped up to a ticketed event.
Seixas’ DJing curates the angsty vibe that pumps through the room and into the crowd’s black hearts. Punk-rock classics like Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance and Green Day always make the cut, Seixas, 36, said.
More popular current-day punk songs are also included in the line-up to engage the younger crowd that was brought in with the wave of TikTok music, Seixas said. But no Emo Nite would be complete without successfully head-banging to classics like “Misery Business” by Paramore before the night ends.
Around 1,000 people attended March’s Emo Nite alone, Seixas said. Former emo kids wishing to relive their middle school days enthusiastically savor the chance to get out on Gainesville’s scene and listen to music they genuinely enjoy.
Chelsea Schafer, a 28-year-old snake caregiver, convinced her friend to look back on their middle school days together. Schafer had previously attended some Emo Nites while they were still held at The Wooly, and the pair agreed nostalgia was a big sentiment for why they decided to return to the event’s latest instance.
“It’s about living our childhood and what we’re familiar with,” Schafer said. “The darkness, the blackness of it all.”
Other attendees echoed similar sentiments of finding comfort in the niche-specific night. Viridian Flores drove from Valdosta, Georgia to attend last month’s emo night with their brother and said their biggest draw was the ability to express themselves without judgment.
Flores, a 21-year-old legal assistant, said they enjoy the non-conformity of emo culture, where they’re able to experiment with androgynous clothing styles and find their roots by expressing themselves.
“I’ve always felt comfortable in the punk and emo scene,” Flores said. “Trying to find my identity feels nice … And not just in a material sense, but the spiritual sense of being myself.”
This year, the event has transitioned to Vivid Music Hall to accommodate for increasing demand.
With over 10,000 square feet of room, the larger venue allows the black-clad attendees more flexibility in their night’s trajectory. If they want to bask in the joy of moshing amongst other emo-minded people, they can. Or, they can catch a break from the intensity of the dance floor by taking a trip to the balcony to get some fresh air.
Stage manager Brett Howells previously worked as a DJ for Neon Liger, a local EDM dance party. Having met Seixas in 2014, Howells was asked in 2018 to take over some of the Nite’s responsibilities. Howells, 33, entertains the early crowd before the host takes the stage, runs the @poppunkemonight Instagram story and ensures there is enough water for audiences to stay hydrated amidst the huddled masses.
Howells commutes from Jacksonville, where he works for a software company, to Gainesville once a month to see old friends and help produce the event. It’s important to Howells that Emo Nite attendees have a good time, he said, and he’s willing to stop the show if needed to ensure the moshers’ safety.
“If you haven't been in this scene, it can be very scary, but our mosh pits are actually some of the most friendly,” Howells said. “Which kind of sounds crazy, but there's an unspoken rule of mosh pits where if somebody goes down, you pick them up.”
There’s a core group of devoted sad-music lovers who attend Emo Nites so frequently the events staff now recognize them, Howells said, and the same familiar faces who make consistent appearances in photographs of the Nites online are the lifeblood of the show.
Howells runs the Instagram story and sets the mood for the early crowd before SaddyDaddy takes the stage.
Meadows had to fight for the right to their Instagram title for at least two years, filing requests to the app to deactivate inactive accounts, ensuring they could use the official @saddydaddy handle.
They originally began their screaming career at age 15 when they entered their first metal band. From there, the love for despair-filled music followed them until their early 20s, when they worked at Guitar Center for six years.
Now, Meadows said they feel lucky to be given the privilege of providing Gainesville’s emo community with the opportunity to feel the force of all their emotions — especially the sad ones.
“I'm astonished that this has been built to what it is,” Meadows said. “I'm blown away and just overwhelmed with happiness.”
The next Emo Nite will be at Vivid Music Hall on April 15.
Contact Loren at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LorenMiranda13.
Loren Miranda is a second-year journalism major and a staff writer for the Avenue. She is also a copy editor for Rowdy Magazine. When she's not writing, she enjoys watching either critically acclaimed films or cheesy reality TV, no in-betweens.